Antenna finish

Posted: 8/18/2006 3:27:52 AM

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

I've been thinking a bit lately about the finish of the antennas on my Etherwave. Also, I'm planning to construct a Jaycar midi theremin this winter, and I've been thinking about antennas for that too since I don't plan to use the cheap antennas (or tiny case) the kit comes with.

You see, I have a difficulty called hyperhydrosis, which basically means I sweat profusely, almost nonstop, all the time, regardless of temperature or humidity. One consequence of this is that things I handle regularly tend to have their finishes ruined: my perspiration ate the paint off of my last laptop. One of the worst things for me to handle is chrome. The chrome finish starts to degrade after the first time I handle it. So, I hate chrome, and my Etherwave antennas are starting to look bad, at least up close. It's all the more obvious since I polyurethaned the case to protect the autographs on it from my hands: the case is glossy as glass, the antennas are starting to look corroded.

Brass is also bad, it starts to patina after I handle it, so I don't want plain brass antennas either. (I think the Etherwave antennas are brass beneath the chrome, aren't they?) Same for copper, although at least copper doesn't smell funny.

No, I can't just wear rubber gloves, it's incredibly uncomfortable for me among other problems.

Consequently, I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas about surface finishes for antennas that won't corrode. I've thought about trying to sand off the chrome and then perhaps have the antennas gold plated, but I imagine it would be rather expensive. Other ideas or a cheap gold electroplating service would be welcome.
Posted: 8/18/2006 10:27:08 AM

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

Gold would look great with the shiny case!

How are you with stainless steel? I don't know if that would be feasable but it's a thought.

Have you considered some sort of clear plastic tubing that you could just slip over the antennae?

If not clear then maybe shiny black to match the rest of the instrument would look nice.

Or how about red?

I would take a trip to the home improvement store and see what they have that might work.

Posted: 8/18/2006 2:00:38 PM

Joined: 6/29/2006

I think Diggydog might be onto something here.

I just recently looked into plating the antennas I plan on making. I even asked for a quotation on gold plating, but they said they couldn't do it (too busy) so I didn't get any price from them.

If you are going to get your antennas replated, I don't know that I'd try to remove the existing chrome as it is a very hard metal. I'd leave it up to the chromers who have the experience and equipment to do that sort of thing.

But, getting back to your problem....perhaps after they are chromed you could get them clear coated for next to nothing at a local body shop?

Perhaps even better, and more interesting, you might consider having them powder coated. You would have a wide range of colors, possibly even clear. It would certainly be something different. I haven't seen it done by anyone yet.

For me, one of the things that gives the theremin it's appeal is the shiny, plated antennas glistening in the light. If they were painted or powder coated, especially black, them may just seem to blend into the background and disappear.
Posted: 8/18/2006 4:18:32 PM

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

Clear plastic tubing wouldn't work, because it has ends that my perspiration could get into as I handle the antenna.

I like the powder coat idea. I could get them powder coated in a gold tone. They wouldn't be shiny, but they'd be visible and the color would be nice.

It also occurs to me that I should talk to my jeweler. She likes my Theremin, she might get into the idea of being able to do something to the antennas and she might have cool ideas. I wonder if they could be covered with niobium? That's non-corroding, I believe...
Posted: 8/18/2006 7:39:25 PM

Joined: 10/8/2005

Gold plating sounds like the real answer to your problem. It would look great and should last a long time. Paint, powder coat etc would probably all work for a while but all it would take is a nick and you would be back to go. I would at least get a quote for gold. Check plating in the yellow pages. You might also consider nickel. the original RCA antennae were nickel plated. Also available at a lot of plating companies.
Posted: 8/19/2006 12:33:54 AM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

Contrary to popular belief, gold will tarnish or corrode under the right conditions. Certain acids and sulfur compounds can affect gold. Also, the body chemistry of some people can adversely affect gold.

Nickel is also not impervious to sweat. My cousin has this problem. He plays the guitar and he can destroy a set of strings in no time. Most (but not all) guitar strings are a nickel alloy.

Powder coat is available in almost every imaginable color, even clear. There are even some metallic and flake. You can find an orange or yellow that closely resembles gold. It won't "shine" like it's polished or plated, but it will have a glossy finish. Actually, some of the color possibilities are intriguing.

Jeff (AKA Antares)
Posted: 8/19/2006 12:44:16 AM

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

You're right, gold can tarnish, but my gold jewelry doesn't, so I suspect if I had the antennas gold plated they won't.

I think my perspiration does corrode nickel, however. A pity, it's a nice looking metal.

Of course we all know silver will tarnish. It can be polished, which would make it a possibility again, except that I'm also allergic to it.

Powder coats sound like a great idea, so I'm keeping them in mind. And I'm going to look into gold plating.

There's also the question of where to get good antennas for the new theremin I'll be making this winter (even before worrying about how to finish them), but at least that's no rush yet.
Posted: 8/19/2006 5:33:59 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

It might also be worth considering titanium coating. Titanium is resistant to corrosion from organic acids and salts, including seawater, and can be anodised to give a variety of strong colours.

Titanium nitride has a gold colour and is used in costume jewellery and surgical implants. The wikipedia article for titanium nitride has a link to which appears a good place to enquire about cost and feasibility.

Posted: 8/20/2006 11:15:18 AM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

How about platinum? Cha CHING! Or, perhaps something even more exotic like palladium, rhodium, or ruthenium?

Here's an interesting site I found.
Posted: 10/18/2006 7:14:27 AM

From: Belgium

Joined: 10/17/2006

personally, i wouldn't try to protect the antennae against this problem, but use it.
i'd find the metal that corrodes in the most beautifull way (probably copper or brass like on those really old saxophones, they look great) and use antennae in that material and rehouse the theremin itself in an enclosure in the same material or something that matches it. this might look really really beautifull.

and to make it really classy you could wait for it to look nice and then coat it (powdercoating perhaps?) with a clear finish in whatever kind of finish you like. glossy, matte, pearl shine, a soft transparent color...

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